Nurses have been called to action in a new world-first health program to tackle soaring dementia rates.
Your Brain Matters, an Alzheimer’s Australia initiative, is the world’s first publicly-funded dementia risk reduction program and aims to keep the brain healthy by looking after the mind, body and heart.
The health program’s launch comes as new evidence shows cutting risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity, by 25 per cent will result in three million fewer cases of Alzheimer’s disease across the globe.
Almost 280,000 people in Australia have dementia and that figure is forecast to rise to almost one million by 2050.
Alzheimer’s Australia national dementia risk reduction manager
Suha Ali said the community education campaign aims to also arm health professionals with the latest information and evidence as part of a preventative health strategy.
“Nurses have a huge part to play in the preventative health sphere,” she said.
“This program is aimed at nurses and other health professionals, particularly with the management of risk factors.”
The Your Brain Matters launch coincides with the release of a new evidence paper from Alzheimer’s Australia’s Dr Maree Farrow and Elodie O’Connor which reveals lifestyle and medical factors, particularly in midlife, can impact people’s risk of developing a neurological condition such as dementia.
“Higher levels of mental, social and physical activity are associated with lower risk of developing dementia while cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are associated with increased risk,” Alzheimer’s Australia president Ita Buttrose states in the paper.
“It seems midlife is a critical time to address these modifiable risk factors, but it is never too late to develop good brain health habits.
“Evidence is emerging that these same beneficial factors can influence the rate of cognitive decline in someone with dementia and that by keeping the person engaged, and effectively managing other medical conditions, their quality of life can be improved.”
Ms Ali said nurses and health professionals could access Alzheimer’s Australia’s dementia risk guidelines.
She said Alzheimer’s Australia’s free iPhone and android application Brainyapp was another tool health professionals could recommend to their patients.
“It’s the world’s first dementia risk-reduction app,” she said.
“It’s a great way for people to find out how brain healthy they are and to make changes and to track how you are going.
“So far we have had more than 220,000 people download the app.”